July 13, 2023

How Freedom Spread

By: Peyton Holliday

When you look at the world from the perspective of history, freedom is a fairly new concept. While we can look back all the way to ancient Egypt and the Israelite slaves and find a group of people who were freed, the rest of the ancient world remained largely void of freedom. 

Slavery has been around since ancient times and not one time was slavery a desired outcome for anyone in enslavement. Looking back to ancient history when one leader conquered a group of people, that group became his slaves. 

Freedom did not matter to anyone, only survival mattered. Ancient civilizations were barbaric and would do indescribable things including impaling people and leaving them out to rot in the sun. Death was such a common occurrence not only because of the lack of modern medicine, but also because of the lack of human decency and rights of people. 

It was the English people in 1215 who changed the course of history and showed the world a glimpse of the freedom that was possible. With the signing of the Magna Carta, King John relinquished some of his powers and gave Englishmen a small portion of his power. While a very small step in the history of freedom for all, it was an important one.

The Magna Carta started an idea that maybe not all people had to be under authority of a King for every little decision in their life. Maybe there was the possibility to make one’s own decision. 

Continuing down the lane of history, in 1776, some 500 years after the Magna Carta, freedom was once again questioned by a group of people among the British strongholds. What did freedom truly mean? 

Freedom was still a new concept, but it was slowly gaining ground and opening more doors for people to understand. However, as the American colonies broke away from Great Britain, there were questions left unanswered as to what freedom truly looked like.

Thomas Jefferson famously penned the words that “all men are created equal”. These words gave hope to those who were searching for true freedom. If all men were created equal then all men should have the same freedoms, right?  

As the United States sought to start a new nation founded on principles of liberty and justice for all, Great Britain was beginning to awaken to another type of freedom, the freedom of all people and specifically the freedom of slaves. 

Freeing slaves was nothing new, but a national ban on slavery requiring all slaves to be free was a concept beyond comprehension for the people of the day. William WIlburforce rose to the ranks and fought tooth and nail throughout his lifetime for what he believed to be true freedom for all. His lifetime of fighting for the freedom of slaves paid off and Great Britain outlawed slavery forever in 1833.

Great Britain, once again, led the way to freedom and showed the world how it could be done. The United States, with a bloody Civil War, was right behind them. 

A new group of people now new what freedom actually meant.  With the freeing of slaves in the United States, a new era in the Western World had begun. For the first time in the history of the world, the owning and purchasing of a human being was eradicated. 

The progress that freedom brought gave rise to a whole new way of looking at the world. Time continued on and the next big story of freedom was found when the world went to war. 

With World War I and World War II, freedom became a talking point for not just English-speaking people, but the rest of the world. What if all the world could be free from tyranny and leaders who only wanted personal power? What if freedom and equality and opportunity was something everyone could grasp?

Coming out of the aftermath of the war, more questions of freedom began to arise. Were we all truly free? Leading into the Civil Rights movements under the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr., there was a new wave of freedom in the United States. This wave of freedom questioned how people were treated and how the color of one’s skin should not be a separator, but should remind us of the diversity of our country and the world.  

As time marched on, freedom became more and more of a conversation. Freedom throughout history has meant that people can live peaceably without the fear of being overrun or enslaved by another oppressor. Freedom is a concept that has opened the door for many conversations and led our world to a much better place than what it once was. 

As Americans we should celebrate the fact that we live in a free country and we are able to live in peace.This month, let’s remember how important our freedoms are and the long history it took for us to get to this point. We should be thankful for all the people who spent years paving the way for freedom both here in the United States and around the world.